The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Rev. Ed.)- Volume 3, Samuel-Kings

 

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Volume 3 of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC revised) covers the books of Samuel and Kings. In this case, the original commentators were given the opportunity to update their material. I had used the original editions extensively on these four books of the Bible, and I’m glad to see their usefulness extended by this revision. Just think, you get over 950 quality pages on Samuel and Kings!

The books of Samuel were handled by the respected scholar Ronald Youngblood. His work on Samuel was one of the highest rated volumes in the original set, and it appears he will be able to keep that designation. His introduction is not extensively revised, but is well done.

In the introduction, he covers the title of the book, authorship and date, historical context, literary context and unity, purpose, literary form, canonicity and text, and theological values. His conclusions are wonderfully conservative, particularly on dating. He feels that Edwin Thiele is quite accurate in the chronology he developed. The bibliography is extensively updated.

The commentary is outstanding. In every section, he gives an overview, a translation, commentary on the verses, and exegetical notes. It is truly one of the better commentaries on Samuel that we have available today.

The commentary on Kings is a joint effort by Richard Patterson and Hermann Austel. It was never rated quite is highly as the work on Samuel, and was somewhat briefer, but I always found it a solid help. I always checked it when I was working in Kings. In any event, it did receive more of a revision in the commentary section.

As was the case with Samuel, the introduction is not extensively revised either. It covers historical background, unity, authorship, and date, origin, occasion, and purpose, literary form, theological values, canonicity, text, and chronology. You will notice several conservatives quoted in the introduction, and though no one really knows who the author of Kings is, you find some pretty conservative conclusions here.

The commentary section mirrors the style found in Samuel. It’s really good at drawing out the details of the story itself. You can glean much from its pages.

I grow ever more impressed with the EBC series. Here’s another outstanding, economical value for the pastor or Bible student. It would not be wise to be without it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Spiritual Discipleship by J. Oswald Sanders

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This book is the third of J. Oswald Sanders’ volumes republished in attractive paperback editions by Moody Publishers. Though, perhaps, not as extraordinary as his Spiritual Leadership and Spiritual Maturity books, this volume on spiritual discipleship is a worthy read. As the subtitle suggests, Sanders draws out “principles of following Christ for every believer”.

After a brief introduction, he describes the ideal disciple in chapter 1 straight from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. In chapter 2, he uses the words of Jesus to describe the conditions of discipleship. The next two chapters are on evidences and tests of discipleship, but I found these two chapters to be the least clear in the book.

The remaining 16 chapters examine discipleship from every possible vantage point. You will read of the disciple’s master (the Lord), his senior partner (the Holy Spirit), his servanthood, his ambition, his love, and his maturity. You will have described the disciple’s Olympics (a review of Paul’s allusions to athletics), compassion, prayer life, rights (meekness is preferred), example, loneliness, the second chance, renewed commission, dynamic, and hope. It’s all excellent fodder to review your own level of discipleship.

The publishers have attached a small group study guide at the end of the book. There’s also a helpful index of Scripture.

If you have read Sanders’ other volumes, you will know what to expect. I’d recommend that you grab all three of these recently reprinted volumes. Sanders knows what spiritual writing is all about. This book is a meaningful, devotional read covering a subject that every Christian should entertain.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Rev. Ed.)- Volume 13, Hebrews-Revelation

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This volume 13 in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) series, revised edition, thoroughly updates the old volume 12 of the original series. In fact, only one author from the original series is retained in this volume. What you have here is an outstanding commentary covering nine books of the New Testament.

On the book of Hebrews, R. T. France has replaced Leon Morris. Though I love the writings of Leon Morris, I must admit that it was in need of updating as it was never rated as highly as Mr. Morris’s other commentaries. Mr. France is a highly respected scholar who has written major exegetical commentaries on other books of the New Testament. In the Introduction, he covers an overview of what sort of writing Hebrews is, which is basically a discussion of genre. From there, he discusses author, destination, and date, basic theme and structure, Hebrews as an expositor of other biblical text, its use of the Old Testament, and theology. He also gives a bibliography and outline before he jumps into the commentary. The commentary proper is a success, though if you’re familiar with his other writings his brevity might seem out of place. Actually, he hits perfectly on what this commentary series aims for.

The Book of James is handled by George Guthrie, who is another highly respected New Testament scholar who has written several major commentaries. The introduction only comes in at eight pages and discusses authorship, date, destination on occasion, structure and main themes, before jumping into a bibliography and outline. The commentary itself is well done.

The Books of First and Second Peter and Jude are handled by J. Darrell Charles, who replaces Edwin Blum. He gives a separate introduction and commentary for each of these three books. The outline of the introduction is similar in all three cases. He will discuss, in one way or the other, history of interpretation that will include authorship and dating questions, canonical considerations, composition and literary form, literary relationship to the other two letters, recent scholarship, and purpose and prominent themes. It’s an outstanding work for pastors.

Tom Thatcher handles the Epistles of John. With brevity and clarity, he provides another solid conservative commentary. The introduction offers some opening comments, discusses authorship and historical setting, followed by structure and summary. He also gives a short bibliography and outline.

Alan F. Johnson revises his work on Revelation. Though it is not a major revision, it gives new life to one of the most respected pre-millennial interpretations in a nice scholarly vein on the Book of Revelation. The EBC series has been unjustly criticized by some reviewers because pre-millennial scholars were given the main prophecy books of the Bible in the series. What can’t be overlooked, however, is the quality of good writing and scholarship that are present in these books. Johnson does a marvelous job here. His introduction discusses the general nature and historical background of the book, unity, authorship and canonicity, date, purpose, theological problems, text, interpretive schemes, use of the Old Testament, and structure. I count this book a major success.

Volume 13 holds up to the lofty standards and reputation of the EBC series. It is an economical, helpful commentary on the last nine books of the New Testament. Pastors and Bible students will love it and I highly recommend it!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

I & II Kings (OTL) by Sweeney

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Marvin A. Sweeney, an author who has written several major exegetical works, turns out this volume on First and Second Kings in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. There seems to be a consensus that this volume is an improvement on the earlier volume on Kings in this series by John Gray that it replaced. I’ve noticed several positive reviews on this volume, and if you wonder how it compares to others in the series, I’d say it’s stronger on exegetical matters and weaker on theological ones. Just as the others in the series, though, it well expresses the viewpoint of the critical camp.

After a lengthy bibliography, Mr. Sweeney begins his Introduction by explaining the big picture of First and Second Kings being a narrative history of Israel and Judah. In presenting his historical views that a conservative reader like me could never agree with, he explains that he feels these books are more designed to tell us why Israel and Judah were exiled rather than to present with historical accuracy. He further explains that the people and the kings have failed to obey the Lord and His word, and have brought God’s hand against themselves. While I could easily believe that along with the historical accuracy of these books, there is no doubt that the explanation of what happened to Israel and Judah is in view in these books.

With a peculiar confidence, he reviews sources, or as he calls it, deuteronomistic history. He will trace that through Josianic, Hezekian, Jehu Dynastic, and Solomonic histories. While I couldn’t get into that sort of thinking, it’s there if that’s your cup of tea. He well explains the textual history of Kings by looking at the Masoretic version, Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran, the Septuagint version, Peshitta and Syriac versions, and even the Vulgate. Which version you favor also plays into how he explains the chronology of Kings. To my mind, he seems antagonistic to the Masoretic text and arrives at a chronology I couldn’t agree with. Still, he explains the common critical assumptions with aplomb.

In the commentary proper, he commentates mostly on the final form of the text. He does at times mention some of these issues regarding sources, but the forte of this volume is its rigorous exegesis. As I see it, this is the best volume to grab to get a clear presentation of the critical viewpoint on the books of First and Second Kings.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Luke (TOTC) by Leon Morris

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This jewel of a commentary and was first written in 1974 and revised in 1988 by the venerable Leon Morris. It will likely be replaced soon as the whole Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TOTC) series is under revision, but I suggest you secure a copy as it is the ideal brief commentary on Luke. Leon Morris was the editor of the whole series before this latest round of revision kicked in, and understood what made a good commentary. In addition, there’s always a glowing spiritual warmth that pervades good scholarship in his writings. This volume on Luke is one of his great ones.

In the Introduction, he discusses authorship, date, language, Luke as a theologian, and the relationship of Luke to the other Gospels. He is thoroughly conservative throughout. The commentary is sterling. In fact, I fail to see how any reader couldn’t benefit from this fine book. If I were reading Luke and just wanted to grab one volume to orient myself or ask a question about the passage, this is the one I would grab. I hope IVP prints this commentary as a standalone volume when it comes time for Luke to be replaced in their TOTC series. Just in case they don’t, you’d better grab a copy while you can.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Proverbs (OTL) by Clifford

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If you are like me, even though you are conservative Bible student, you like to turn to the Old Testament Library (OTL) series to get a good grasp of the critical position. Though there are some things you will greatly disagree with in the series, there often observations on structure and theology that others miss. This volume by Richard J. Clifford that replaced McKane’s earlier one accomplishes all those things. It does it in spite of the fact that the Book of Proverbs lends itself less to such observations.

After a bibliography, Clifford jumps into an Introduction of the Book of Proverbs. There’s a very interesting outline given. The discussion of dating and the editing of the text matches the critical position, as does the historical context. My least favorite aspect of the introduction that can also be found in the commentary itself is the author’s conviction that the book of Proverbs is modeled off Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and other such cultures. When Clifford addresses the distinctive ideas found in Proverbs he’s especially helpful. He has a unique way of expressing himself that really gets you to thinking.

Any commentary on the Book of Proverbs, including the best ones out there, is of necessity a little hit-or-miss on any specific verse. In any event, what’s found here is much helpful exegesis and theology, despite the sentences you may have to dismiss out of hand.

This book fully lives up to the OTL standard and is worth consulting if you can ignore his Mesopotamian obsession.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Judges and Ruth (TOTC) by Evans

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This volume on Judges and Ruth by Mary J. Evans is the latest new one in the highly-respected Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series that is being completely revised. The volume it replaced was nearing 50 years old, and was done by Arthur Cundall and Leon Morris. Morris, who was a prolific scholarly writer on New Testament issues, handled Ruth in the older book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. No doubt, however, it was time for IVP to produce a new volume to keep the series up-to-date. Evans, who produced this new volume, has written a commentary on Samuel in IVP’s BST series several years ago.

As I read through the introduction to both Judges and Ruth by Evans, the strengths and weaknesses of the book became quickly apparent. When matters of history or sources were under discussion, I was completely unimpressed. When the discussion turned to background, theology, or other such matters, I found it quite readable and enjoyable.

In the Introduction to Judges, the author first tackles literary issues including overall structure. When she finally worked her way to recurring motifs, I found it quite interesting as well as a discussion of author’s intention. When overviewing canonical context, discussion of sources somewhat marred the relationship of Judges to Deuteronomy, Joshua, or Samuel. Particularly helpful was a discussion of all the surrounding tribes and nations and false gods found in Judges. The discussion of theological themes was solid, and even if I think more could have been said regarding the ethical issues facing readers today from the difficult Book of Judges, at least the questions were brought up. The commentary itself shared some of the same pluses and minuses as were found in the introduction, but there was real help to be found.

I found Evans more inspiring in the Book of Ruth. The background information was excellent as were the character studies. The theological discussion of themes found in Ruth was excellent, only falling short when discussing the Kinsman Redeemer. Her discussion of recurring motives brought up some things I hadn’t thought of before and was quite interesting.

This book is a solid entry in a great series!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Grant by Chernow (Presidential Bio. Series)

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Ron Chernow has struck gold again. After writing his earlier Washington, a book that many of us feel is the best presidential biography ever written, you had to wonder if that earlier success was the biggest competition for this volume. While I would rank Grant a notch below Washington, this biography stands triumphantly beside the author’s earlier work. This book even accomplished one thing the earlier book did not: I knew Washington was great, but Chernow convinced me that Grant was far greater than I ever knew.

There were even a few astonishing similarities between Washington and Grant that may be easily overlooked because of their broad dissimilarities. Both had an annoying parent, both had financial difficulties both before and after their presidencies, both persevered at times with health difficulties, both were loved as a general even more than as a president, and both were revered at their death on a scale that few others could duplicate in American history.

In this work on Grant, Chernow makes Grant so alive that by book’s end, you feel you know him so well that you could anticipate what it would be like if he walked in the room, sat down, and begin talking to you. Though Grant was notoriously one to keep his emotions to himself, he was unable to hide them from Chernow. The portrait is so exquisitely drawn that we have the timbre of Grant’s voice, even if we lack the pitch of one who lived before the days of recordings.

Chernow doesn’t hide Grants faults. His fine trait of seeing people without guile sunk him to naïveté and made him the sucker for countless hucksters. His amazing powers of concentration were at times counterbalanced by his lack of counsel. His drinking blackened his eyes at times throughout his career even if he inwardly hated it and appeared to conquer it several years before he died.

Chernow is not as explicit with Grant’s faith as he was with Washington, but the fault was likely Grant’s. Grant’s life-long trait of holding so much inside robs us of knowing how sincere his Christianity was. We do learn in this book that he was raised in a Methodist home, and though his dad was unscrupulous in the extreme, his mother had a true piety. Grant was never known to use foul language, nor to have any substantiated trouble with women. In fact, he was a gentlemen’s gentleman in that regard. We do know he was a faithful churchgoer, attended revival meetings with D. L. Moody, and had a pastor often around him in his final days. Chernow shares the disputed stories of how sincerely Grant wanted the baptism he received in his final days. Some say he loved the idea while others say he did it to please his wife.

Chernow draws a good picture of Julia Grant as well. She was a homely Southern Belle, more ambitious than her husband, held grudges, got caught up in the glory of the White House, and seemed to have little of the Methodist piety that her husband grew up with. Still, she loved her husband and he loved her. She believed in him when it even didn’t make sense.

This book never lags. With 959 pages of text, it is quite long, but I can’t imagine what could be left out. Grant’s life of struggle before the Civil War had as much drama as a novel and made for great reading. As you would’ve guessed, the portion of the book that covered the Civil War was enthralling – both the writing and the subject were thrilling in this section. The misnomer of Grant the butcher is thoroughly laid to rest. He was an accomplished general, wrongly overshadowed by Robert E. Lee, and was both relentless and fearless in battle. Along the way, you will have a good overview of the Civil War without ever sinking into the dryness that afflicts some historical writing.

When you pick this book up, you are preconditioned to think that Grant’s life after the Civil War is boring, but I still couldn’t put the book down and found it all fascinating. His presidency was far more than the caricature of scandal that has been wrongly attached to it, even if the scandals were real. He wanted to preserve the gains of the Civil War and was sincere. It wasn’t until after his presidency that I soured somewhat on his character as one who was becoming too egocentric and one too easily piqued toward others. But then his determination to care for his wife and write his memoirs brought him back to the Grant I had grown to love.

This book is a tour de force! It could serve as a virtual clinic on how to write historical biography. Chernow, though perhaps not as well-known as the beloved David McCullough (though a play called Hamilton may have changed that observation), must in no way defer to him with this masterpiece. I’m confident that this will be THE biography on Ulysses S. Grant for my lifetime.

This book is so wonderful that it makes you ask: what’s next, Mr. Chernow? If the trend of jumping to the next century and finding the general who lead its most important war and later became president, it must be Eisenhower. Whoever it ends up being, I’ll be in line to get and read it!